Looking like a cross between Pixar’s Luxo Jr lamp and Apple’s iMac G4, Jibo is an interactive electronic buddy that is touted as the "world’s first family robot." Designed to engage with people in a human-like way, Jibo takes on various roles around the house including mail deliverer, environment controller, storyteller, telepresence device, event reminder, and cameraman.
The internet-connected Jibo talks and uses sound effects, graphics, and movement to mimic a range of emotions and reactions and make it seem more personable and family friendly. Its face, for example, is a screen that displays different emoticons to accompany various messages or reminders that it may deliver. This includes blinking its "eye," displaying a mail icon when email arrives, or using animations to illustrate a story that it may be relating.
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Similarly, its touch-sensitive aluminum body is able to rotate and swivel on the spot by way of a three-axis motor system, enabling Jibo to turn and face the person addressing it, frame a photograph, or to emulate a dance movement in concert with the music it may be playing.
Approximately 11 in (28 cm) tall with a 6 in (15 cm) base, and weighing in at around 6 lb (2.7 kg), Jiboe is constructed from aluminum, ABS plastic and glass, and sports a high-resolution LCD touchscreen for its face. Jibo's brain power is supplied by an ARM processor and it runs on Linux. It also automatically stores its data in the JIBO cloud, allowing a new Jibo to pick up where the previous one left off.
Unlike some other personal assistance robots like the Mobiserv robot, Jibo isn't able to move by himself, but he does have a trio of motors and a toothed belt system to allow him to rotate the movable sections of his body. Equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, Jibo automatically monitors email and other online accounts and announces messages as soon as they arrive.
Jibo also has two color stereo cameras to detect and follow people and motions and, though normally plugged into a mains socket for power, a battery pack is available is an option that will provide cord-free power for about 30 minutes before needing recharging. It also has an array of microphones to allow for sound localization (to enable it to work out where you are so that it can face you when you speak), and sensors on its body to allow touch interaction.
Jibo’s software is the crucial element to its capabilities, as it allows the robot to identify and follow faces, follow and react to natural language voice commands, and alter the way it behaves based on its stored knowledge of different members of the household. Jibo is designed to be a learning system, and the software developed so far provides a substantial, but limited, array of functionality.
As a result, the Jibo team will also enable developers access to Jibo's functions through a Software Development Kit (SDK) when purchasing a developer package. It is hoped that this – and access to a Jibo developer community – will help to vastly improve Jibo’s interactive and personal capabilities.
The brainchild of Cynthia Breazeal, a roboticist at MIT’s Media Lab, Jibo is the subject of an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. It is currently available for pre-order for US$499 and will ship late 2015. A developer package is also available for $599 US (including the full SDK and access to the Jibo developer program) and will ship in the latter half of 2015.
The short video below shows Jibo in action.